In their quest to supply as many reasons as possible to vote for Barack Obama, the mainstream media have expressed a particular interest in John McCain's mortality. Last May, McCain made available more than 1,000 pages of medical records for press scrutiny. In contrast, Obama released a one-page letter from a physician pronouncing the Democrat in excellent health.
Now comes the Associated Press today with an article titled, "One-in-four chance McCain may not survive 2nd term." It starts:
If John McCain is elected and goes on to win a second term, there's as much as a one-in-four chance America could see its first woman president — Sarah Palin.
It's actuarial math.
The odds highly favor either McCain or Barack Obama completing a first term in good health. After that, McCain's odds are still fairly solid, but his chances of dying or being in poor health go up faster than Obama's, mainly because of his age.
An Atlanta actuarial company specializing in individualized estimates of life and health expectancy has run the numbers for McCain, 72, and Obama, 47. The firm, Bragg Associates, calculated the odds of the candidates dying in office, adjusted for their known health problems.
McCain would be the oldest president to begin a first term in office. By the end of a second term, Jan. 20, 2017, he would have a 24.44 percent chance of dying, compared with 5.76 percent for Obama, the firm estimates.
"Can either candidate expect to serve two terms in a healthy state? The answer is yes," says James C. Brooks, Jr., an actuary with the firm. "They're both in outstanding health for people of their age."
If readers makes it to the nineteenth paragraph, they'll learn that there may be cause for concern in terms of Obama's health:
But Obama has a family history of cancer. His mother died of ovarian cancer and his maternal grandfather died of prostate cancer. Obama's PSA screening test for prostate cancer showed no sign of abnormalities.
It seems to me that a piece focusing on the likelihood of McCain completing a second term in good health would be more appropriately timed for closer to the end of his first term in the White House.
Additionally, the headline could have, as KAIT8 in Jonesboro, Arkansas did, more fairly titled an article with much of the same information "Odds favor McCain completing a first term in good health."
But then, that wouldn't have the desired effect, would it?